Sunday, March 28, 2021
Plenary Indulgences for Holy Week
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Monday, March 15, 2021
Is Fasting or Abstinence Required on Holy Days of Obligation in Lent?
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Saint Joseph and the Christ Child by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo

St. Joseph's Day as a Holy Day of Obligation

The first catalog of Holy Days comes from the Decretals of Gregory IX in 1234, which listed 45 Holy Days. In 1642, His Holiness Pope Urban VIII issued the papal bull "Universa Per Orbem" which altered the required Holy Days of Obligation for the Universal Church to consist of 35 such days as well as the principal patrons of one's one locality. St. Joseph's Day is on that list.

However, due to dispensations, differences ranged drastically as to which days were kept as holy days throughout the world. In some parts of the world, St. Joseph's Day on March 19th was a Holy Day of Obligation whereas in others it was not. For instance, St. Joseph's Day was a Holy Day of Obligation in Quebec in the late 1600s and also in the British Colonies in what is now the United States of America. It was also a holy day of Obligation in what is now Florida, among other places. But changes abounded as the number of holy days gradually weakened over the centuries. 

At America's birth, the Holy Days of Obligation, in addition to every Sunday, were as follows: the feasts of Christmas, Circumcision, Epiphany, Annunciation, Easter Monday, Ascension, Whitsun Monday, Corpus Christi, Ss. Peter and Paul, Assumption, and All Saints. St. Joseph's Day had ceased being a Holy Day of Obligation in the United States. However, it remained a holy day in some other parts of the world.

In 1911, Pope St. Pius X issued Supremi disciplinæ which drastically reduced the number of Holy Days of Obligation in the Universal Church to only 8. St. Joseph's Day did not make the list. Shortly thereafter in 1917, however, Corpus Christi and St. Joseph were added back by his successor, bringing the total to 10. The 10 currently observed on the Universal Calendar are the same as from 1917.

As for the Holy Days observed in the United States, the Catholic Encyclopedia in referencing Supremi disciplinæ noted, "Where, however, any of the above feasts has been abolished or transferred, the new legislation is not effective. In the United States consequently the Epiphany and the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul are not days of precept." The same is true of St. Joseph's Day in the changes in 1917. While the 1917 change did not add St. Joseph's Day back to the list of Holy Days of Obligation in the United States, it did elsewhere.

Presently, Indonesia, Lebanon, Malta, Spain, and the Diocese of Lugano in Switzerland keep St. Joseph's Day as a Holy Day.

St. Joseph's Day as a Day of Fast / Abstinence on Fridays in Lent

Per the 1917 Code of Canon Law is Friday abstinence still required? And would the fast of Lent still be observed? The answer is unequivocally yes.

The question of whether Holy Days of Obligation abrogate the requirement of Friday abstinence outside of Lent is mentioned in the 1917 Code:

"On [Sundays] or feasts of precept, the law of abstinence or of abstinence and fast or of fast only ceases, except during Lent, nor is the vigil anticipated; likewise it ceases on Holy [Saturday] afternoon" (1917 Code, Canon 1252 § 4). [Translation taken from THE 1917 OR PIO-BENEDICTINE CODE OF CANON LAW in English Translation by Dr. Edward Peters]

The 1917 Code is explicit - feasts of precepts do not remove the requirement to fast or abstain during Lent. The only way that the obligation would be removed during the season of Lent would be if a dispensation would be specifically offered by the lawful Church authorities for a particular day.

In 1954, Pope Pius XII issued such a decree granting bishops the permission to dispense from Friday abstinence for the Feast of St. Joseph which that year fell on a Friday. A March 26, 1954 article of the Guardian elaborates: "Bishops throughout the world have been granted the faculty to dispense their faithful from the law of abstinence on the Feast of St. Joseph, Friday, March 19. The power was granted in a decree issued by the Sacred Congregation of the Council, which said it acted at the special mandate of His Holiness Pope Pius XII. The decree was published in L'Osservatore Romano made no mention of a dispensation from the Lenten fast." 

As such, St. Joseph's Day did not permit the faithful to eat meat on Fridays in Lent unless such a specific dispensation were offered, and which was very rarely done. Likewise, to those who maintain the 1917 Code's requirement to also fast all forty weekdays of Lent - which was observed since the Early Church - St. Joseph's Day remains a day of fast. Surely St. Joseph would want us to produce worthy fruits of penance during this holiest season as we prepare for the Pascal mystery.

Unfortunately, the 1983 Code of Canon Law which aligns with the many modernist changes in the Church weakly states:

"The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent. Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday" (1983 Code, Canons 1251 - 1252). 

Dispensations From Abstinence Were Previously Required Even for Holy Days of Obligation Outside of Lent

The notion that a solemnity that is not even a Holy Day of Obligation would trump Friday abstinence in Lent is absurd and a radical departure from all of our traditions. For instance, even Christmas would in and of itself not dispense Friday abstinence in the Medieval Church as Dom Gueranger writes in the Liturgical Year published in 1886:

"To encourage her children in their Christmas joy, the Church has dispensed with the law of abstinence, if this Feast fall on a Friday. This dispensation was granted by Pope Honorius III, who ascended the Papal Throne in 1216. It is true that we find it mentioned by Pope St Nicholas I, in the ninth century; but the dispensation was not universal; for the Pontiff is replying to the consultations of the Bulgarians, to whom he concedes this indulgence, in order to encourage them to celebrate these Feasts with solemnity and joy: Christmas Day, St Stephen, St John the Evangelist, the Epiphany, the Assumption of our Lady, St John the Baptist, and SS Peter and Paul. When the dispensation for Christmas Day was extended to the whole Church, these other Feasts were not mentioned."

Previously, a dispensation was required by the Holy Father even on Holy Days of Obligation that fell outside of Lent. Two examples indicating this are Pope Leo XIII's 1890 dispensation for Assumption Day and a 1907 dispensation issued for Canada for All Saints Day. All Saints Day was at that time a Holy Day of Obligation in Canada.

The Catholic Encyclopedia on St. Pius X's Supremi disciplinæ indicates that fasting was abolished eo ipso only starting in 1911 for all Holy Days of Obligation (which were at the same time reduced to only 8): "The present Motu Proprio institutes another important change in legislation. As feasting and fasting are incompatible Pius X has abolished the obligation of fasting as well as that of abstinence for the Universal Church, should such obligation coincide with any of the eight feasts, as above." In practice, we know that the exception was Lent - Lenten abstinence and fast always remained unless explicitly dispensed from even after the weakening changes in 1911.

Must we be reminded of the warning of Pope Benedict XIV who in 1741 warned: "The observance of Lent is the very badge of the Christian warfare. By it we prove ourselves not to be enemies of the cross of Christ. By it we avert the scourges of divine justice. By it we gain strength against the princes of darkness, for it shields us with heavenly help. Should mankind grow remiss in their observance of Lent, it would be a detriment to God's glory, a disgrace to the Catholic religion, and a danger to Christian souls. Neither can it be doubted that such negligence would become the source of misery to the world, of public calamity, and of private woe."

Let us fast and abstain this year on March 19th when so many may fail to do so, and let us offer our acts of penance for the conversion of sinners to the Traditional Catholic Faith.
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Thursday, March 11, 2021
Prayer to St. Joseph for the Observance of Sundays and Feastdays
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Taken from the 1910 Raccolta

Please join in praying this as we prepare for next week's St. Joseph Day on March 19th. May more souls, especially Catholic ones, understand the importance of keeping Sunday as a holy day (i.e. a day of rest from all servile work and a day of Mass attendance and extra prayer).

Prayer to St. Joseph for the Observance of Sundays and Feastdays:

Most Glorious Patriarch, St. Joseph, obtain, we beseech thee, from our Lord Jesus Christ a most abundant blessing on all who keep festival days holy; obtain for us that those who profane them may know, in time, the great evil they commit, and the chastisements which they draw down upon themselves in this life and in the next, and may be converted without delay.

O Most blessed St. Joseph, thou who on the Lord's day didst cease from every labour of thy craft, and with Jesus and Mary didst fulfill the duties of religion with most lively devotion, bless the pious work of the sanctification of feast-days, erected under thy most powerful patronage; cause it to spread to every home, office, and workshop, so that the day may soon come when all the Christian populace may on feast-days abstain from forbidden work, seriously attend to the salvation of their souls, and give glory to God, who liveth and reigneth, world without end. Amen.

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